• Denise Paglinawan

Fake news not a top media problem in U.S. election: Toronto journalist

The Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale says the media focuses on fake news and not their real issue which is trust and credibility.

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale says young journalists always ask him about fake news. (RSJ/Denise Paglinawan)

By Maria Denise Paglinawan

Fake news was an issue in the 2016 U.S. election but it was not a top problem for the media, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent says.

Journalist Daniel Dale said people are attempting to focus on fake news at the expense of other pressing issues.

The media’s real issue is trust and credibility, not “conspiratorial right-wing Americans”, he said.

“I don’t think fake news was even in the top seven or eight problems we faced,” Dale, dubbed by Politico as ‘the Trump lie-tracker’, said Wednesday in a talk at Ryerson University.

The Toronto journalist was named in Politico’s list of “breakout media stars of 2016” and is known for his persistent fact-checks of Donald Trump’s statements during the U.S. election campaign.

Erosion of trust in mainstream media

Mistrust in the mainstream media was made clear by the 2016 campaign but has existed before it, the journalist said.

“People are so reluctant to trust any media outlet they perceive as being from or supportive of the other side,” he said.

Dale, a city hall reporter from 2010 to early 2015, said he also experienced being doubted by readers when he was covering former Toronto mayor Rob Ford during his scandal-filled term.

After the Toronto Star reported on the late mayor smoking crack cocaine, Dale said, a poll found that 50 per cent of Toronto residents did not believe the story.

“There was a lot of doubt that what we were saying was true,” he said. “People demanded proof.”

This was a reality-check for the Toronto Star, he said. “These are our readers and they just don’t buy it.”

Dale said it is not always possible to obtain documentary evidence but as much as possible, journalists must get proof they can post and attach to their story.

There was a lot of great reporting that has relied on administration sources since Donald Trump took office, he said.

“You have to (provide evidence),” he said. “There’s no way around it.”

Journalists dealing with Trump supporters

Dale said Trump supporters have been friendly to him from the start of Trump’s campaign.

He said the supporters are polite and friendly even while they say they hate the mainstream media and think these are all biased.

“What I learned is that people, for the most part, are pretty respectful and that if you approach people with respect, they’re probably not going to attack you,” he said.

Dale said one way journalists could combat constant criticisms from U.S. President Trump is by calmly doing good reporting and showing they’re human, showing glimpses of humanity.

© Denise Paglinawan 2020

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